Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Christmas Miracle: Hope

Intro: Hope has long been symbolized by the picture of an anchor.

  1. Hebrews 6:19 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (NIV)

  2. The anchor was used as a tool to kill early Christian martyrs. The best known example was Clement of Rome. Converted under the ministry of Peter and Paul, the earliest known Christian writing following the completion of the NT was a letter Clement wrote to the church in Corinth. Clement was a martyr – after being arrested he continued to preach in prison and won many to Christ. For his efforts the authorities decided to tie an iron anchor around his neck and throw him into the Mediterranean Sea. And yet, the anchor remained a symbol of the hope for believing Christians.

  3. Yet, as I read about the life and death of Christ, I sometimes find it difficult to find a message of hope.

  4. Let me suggest that Isaiah 7:10-16 can help us to understand the message of hope that Christ brings to the church.

Read Isaiah 7:10-16


Tran. As we will see, the roots of hope for the Christian are found in history, in the promise of a messiah, and in the person of Jesus Christ.


  1. Hope is rooted in history

(Ill.) I never liked history. I remember once in seminary even going to a church history professor and asking for permission to write a paper rather than taking the final exam. Though he gave some serious thought to the matter, he could not let me take that option. History was tough.

      1. Yet, one of the reasons we can put our faith in Jesus Christ is because it is grounded in history.

      2. As we take these few Sundays to look at Isaiah and his prophesies related to the coming of Christ, one of the people that we need to be aware of is Ahaz.

      3. Actually our story starts 200 years earlier – after the death of Solomon Israel was spent into separate countries. The country to the north took the name of Israel. During the 200 years leading up to the time of Isaiah, this northern kingdom, the kingdom of Israel, did not have one Godly king. The southern kingdom came to be known as Judah – and they had a series of kings, some good, some bad. But Ahaz was the worst!

(Ill.)To give you an idea of how bad Ahaz really was, II Kings 16 tells that Ahaz required his son to “pass through the fire”. The best scholars suggest that this is an euphemism for human sacrifice.

      1. Now this ungodly man is king of Judah. But God still gives him a chance.

        1. There are two countries that might be considered the super powers of the time – Syria and Assyria.

        2. Israel, the northern kingdom, has allied itself with Syria. Ahaz and the southern kingdom were invited to join this alliance. Ahaz refuses.

        3. That is when Isaiah comes onto the scene – through Isaiah, God challenges Ahaz to trust Him.

      2. Ahaz refuses – and instead decides to align himself with Assyria. History tells us that decision resulted in a century of bondage for Judah – that only ended with the return of Ezra and Nehemiah.

(Appl.) God reached out to this evil man – God also reaches out to each of us. Though we may not be as evil as Ahaz, we do resemble him in one respect – Too often when God reaches out to us, we decide to trust in other resources – events, money, people.

(Appl.) Assuming that God is reaching out to you today – and in some small way he is – who will you trust today? Will you trust God or will you follow Ahaz's example and put your faith in someone or something other than God?

  1. Hope is rooted in the promise

    1. Isaiah offers Ahaz the proof that he might need to show who is in charge. “Ask a sign – from heaven or hell – ask a sign.”

(Appl.) I expect that there are time when we all want a sign. Some proof that God is really there, that he really cares. And then when we mention it out loud, someone is sure to say, “Where's your faith?” It is as if we are not allowed to ask the hard questions. Yet God offers a answer to Ahaz and he refuses it. God can handle the hard questions. Sometimes he is ready to answer before we ask – but we can also give him the hard questions.

    1. Ahaz refuses God's offer – but Isaiah offers him a sign: A virgin will give birth to a son and His name shall be Immanuel – “God with us.”

(Ill.) Martin Luther said, “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope. No husbandman would sow a grain of corn if he hoped not it would grow up and become seed …Or no tradesman would set himself to work if he did not hope to reap benefit thereby.”

(Appl.) Hope for the OT Jew was rooted in the promises – in the word of God. And there lies our hope as well – in all of God's word – both the OT and the NT, in all that he has given us.

  1. Hope is rooted in Jesus Christ

    1. Isaiah's promise would take 700 years to be fullfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.

    2. That stable in Bethlehem 2000 years ago serves as both the answer to hope for the Jew and as the basis for hope for the Christian.

(Ill.) A couple of weeks ago I was walking through Sam's Club on Ridge Road. There was a good-size hour glass on the shelf. It sort of represents what was happening in that baby Jesus Christ. In Jesus all the hope of the OT found its fulfillment. But in this same baby was all the hope of the world.

(Ill.) Robert Treat Paine, one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence once said, “I am constrained to express my adoration of the Author of my existence for His forgiving mercy revealed to the world through Jesus Christ, through whom I hope for never ending happiness in a future state.”

    1. I don't know what the future holds for me. Much less do I know what it holds for you. I do know this – if I place my faith in Jesus I can have hope. And I will have a future that allows me to spend eternity with Jesus Christ.

Conclusion: Let me conclude my thoughts by reminding you of the connection between “hope” and “faith”. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

As men and women of faith our hope is rooted history. Our faith is rooted in the promises. And our faith is rooted in Jesus Christ.

I trust that this Christmas season will be a season of hope for you. That whatever the stresses that might come your way, you will find the time to turn to the baby in that manger and acknowledge that He is the hope for the world – He is your only hope.

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